Grit Blogs > News From The Nest In Rural Pennsylvania

A Healthy Diet: What Can I Eat?

A photo of Lori Dunn with pet squirrelsEat a low fat diet. Reduce your cholesterol. Cut down on your carbs. Watch your sugar. Just what are we supposed to eat? It can all be very confusing. I’m no dietician, but I have become very conscious of what my family and I consume. I have made a new commitment to try and eat as healthy as possible, but what, exactly, is ok? I have spent some time using my favorite resource (the internet) to try and get some answers.

One of the things I found has to do with sugar, and it was actually my husband that stumbled upon it. He accidentally came across a video called “Sugar, The Bitter Truth.” It is by Robert H. Lustig, MD, a UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology (it’s also available on YouTube). It is a bit long, but it was very informative, and I was angry after I watched it! Basically, the doctor explains why sugar, and especially high fructose corn syrup is so bad for us.

I immediately went to my pantry and started reading labels. It is no wonder there is so much type 2 diabetes in this country. Almost everything we consume has had sugar added to it! So how do we get rid of the sugar? It isn’t easy. I don’t think the answer is to just cut sweets from your diet altogether. It would never work, because everyone likes to have a cookie, or cake, or whatever your favorite dessert is. No one can stay away from these goodies forever, so there has to be an alternative, right? I went looking for some.

My first thought for alternative sweeteners of course was the well known brands, Sweet-n-low (saccharin), Equal (aspartame), and Splenda (sucralose).

Sugar, Splenda and Aspartame

Once again, I did some research. I came to the conclusion that none of these are acceptable substitutes, as far as I’m concerned! These sweeteners are chemically produced, not natural, and there are questions about them causing cancer. I am not willing to take that chance! Splenda claims to be natural because it is made from sugar, but what they do to it in the processing is NOT natural. Here is just one link for a video on youtube that explains the origins of Splenda. There is actually quite a lot of info if you look for it. The problem is that we think because these items are approved by the FDA that they are safe. In a perfect system, that might be true, but when big money is involved, our best interests are not the number one priority!

So back to the question, what is a safe alternative? I have found one alternative sweetener that I believe is safe, and it is what I will be using as my main sweetener from now on, Stevia. Stevia is an herb that grows naturally, and is many times sweeter than sugar. It has 0 calories, and has many health benefits to boot! So why isn’t Stevia used in more of our products? I believe it is because big sugar businesses with big money have a lot to lose if this little herb gains popularity! Stevia can only be sold in the United States as a dietary supplement, and in skin care products. That needs to change! Japan has been using Stevia commercially since the 1970s, and it is 50 percent of their sweetener industry today! Here are just a couple of links I found with information about Stevia: Questions & Answers about Stevia and Health Benefits of Stevia. You can also find recipes using Stevia online, and it can be purchased at most health food stores. It can be purchased as a powder, liquid, and in small sweetener packets. I found some Stevia marketed under the name “Truvia” at Giant.

Truvia brand of stevia sweetner

I will also use honey, 100 percent maple syrup and molasses as sweetening alternatives. Although these items do have sugar, they are natural, and have other health benefits as well.

All this just to deal with the sugar aspect of our diet! I haven’t even touched on fat and cholesterol, and things like hydrogenated products! Don’t even get me started on shortening and margarine! They are almost plastic, and I am of the opinion that real butter is a better choice than either of those. I think olive oil is the best oil you can use for cooking.

In the end, I have come to a couple conclusions. The first is that I will never trust the FDA and others such as they that are supposed to have my best interests in mind when approving, or not approving products as safe!

Fresh apples

The other is simply this; the foods that are the best for us are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and naturally raised meat and wild game.

Garden bounty from Lori

Those items which have not been processed to death, with unnatural additives and preservatives, are the things we should be eating. That is not always easy in this day and age, when many times it takes two incomes to support a family and pay the bills. Good food takes time to prepare, and can be more expensive. Most times it is much simpler to reach into the freezer and pull out the pre-packaged item that takes 10 minutes, and bingo, instant dinner, or to grab that snack cake or snack bar that is cheap and easy.

I think it can be done though, with a little planning ahead. Choose what you want to make for supper the night before, and gather those items together ahead of time so they are easier to put together the next day. Set a time to make some healthy, homemade snacks for the week. Make snack mixes with nut varieties and dried fruit. Most dried fruits have sugar on them, but you can find some with no added sugar, and if you can’t find them, dry your own. I played around with a mixture of all natural peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, unsweetened dried banana chips, unsweetened coconut chips, and English walnuts. I just started dumping, and mixed these items to a consistency that I could form little snack sized balls out of it. They got pretty good, and I’m already coming up with ways to change it around next time.

Homemade pleanut butter snacks

Where to shop for your food is another question! I believe it is best if you can raise it or grow it yourself! If you can’t do that, buy from local farmers markets or places that you trust as to what is fed to or sprayed on the food you consume!

Whole grains, wheat flour, cornemeal, and oatmeal

Use as many whole grain products as you can, and when purchasing fresh fruits or veggies from the grocery store, wash them thoroughly to remove chemicals that might be on them before eating!

Wash fruits and veggies before using

READ THOSE LABELS! Know what is in the food you are buying and feeding to your family! Do a little research. There is lots of info out there from many sources that, thanks to the Internet, are easier to get a hold of! If by doing all these things, I can add years to the life of my family, then I consider it time well spent and worth it!